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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Challenged on policy views in town-hall event, Haley doesn’t budge



Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential primary candidate, at the Fox News Presidential Town Hall in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Haley was repeatedly challenged over policy views that veer away from her more conservative rivals during an hourlong town-hall event on Fox News on Monday, but she stood her ground — and called Donald Trump an agent of chaos and Ron DeSantis a liar. (Maansi SrivastavaThe New York Times)

By Jonathan Weisman and Jazmine Ulloa


Nikki Haley was repeatedly challenged over policy views that veer away from her more conservative rivals during an hourlong town-hall event on Fox News on Monday, but she stood her ground — and called Donald Trump an agent of chaos and Ron DeSantis a liar.


With the Iowa caucuses one week away, Haley has much ground to make up against the front-runner and former president, Trump, but a second-place finish ahead of DeSantis, the Florida governor, could propel her into New Hampshire, which hosts the first primary of 2024.


Haley has consistently attacked DeSantis, but Monday evening, she took some swipes at Trump as well, saying he “copped out” on the United States’ international alliances, lied about her record and brought turmoil with his presidency.


“Chaos follows him, and we cannot be a country in disarray,” she said before a live audience in Des Moines, Iowa, which greeted the jab with applause.


Haley took pointed questions from Iowans and Fox News hosts on her promise to negotiate a compromise on abortion, to bolster U.S. support for Ukraine and to raise the retirement age to stave off insolvency for Social Security and Medicare. All of those positions break with her two main rivals.


On abortion, she repeated her point that any national rules on terminating pregnancy would need to clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. She jabbed at Trump and DeSantis on the issue, quipping, “The fellas just don’t know how to talk about it.”


On Social Security and Medicare, she stood by what used to be the standard Republican position before the rise of Trump: that those at or nearing retirement would get their full benefits, but that benefits need to be curtailed for younger workers and the affluent.


And she remained firm on an internationalist approach to foreign policy, despite the rising tide of isolationism in her party. “You’ve got to be a friend to get a friend,” she said.


Haley also responded to an ad blitz by a Trump super political action committee in New Hampshire that has been attacking her as “too weak” and “too liberal” on illegal immigration, pointing to her passage of some of the toughest immigration laws in the country during her tenure as governor of South Carolina.


“Look, just because President Trump says something doesn’t make it true,” she said. She also said, “I appreciate all the attention President Trump is giving me. It is quite sweet and thoughtful of him. But he is lying about it.”


Meanwhile, the Trump campaign kept up the barrage meant to slow her momentum. As she spoke, the campaign sent out a flurry of emails, with titles including “Nikki Haley Revives Bush Amnesty Policies,” “Nikki Haley Loves China” and “Nikki Haley Will Raise Your Taxes.”

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